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Cover Story: Beyond Boba: Here’s More Trendy Drinks!

By Tan Mei Kuan

Ipoh Echo had exclusive one-on-one with both homegrown and international handcrafted drink brands to learn all about the various trendy drinks that have grabbed headlines and created hour-long queues in Ipoh which include bubble tea (also known as boba, a tea-flavoured drink mixed with milk and elevated by the addition of tapioca pearls) and beyond. Besides the brown sugar boba series which are all the rage now, the non-boba varieties are equally as aesthetically pleasing and trendy. How many have you tried?

Trendy, Sun-friendly Drinks Creating A Buzz and Garnering Fans

Homegrown and International Brands

Ipoh Echo zoomed in on a homegrown brand, Teaffany Malaysia which is a handcrafted trendy drinks shop established by a group of seven Ipohites.

The business idea was inspired by a tea break at a bustling drink shop back in March when the buddies gathered for an evening meeting in town.

Collin Chong, CEO of Teaffany who led the team, told Ipoh Echo, “Coincidentally, one of the ladies in our team was among the pioneers of bubble tea makers in Ipoh. Together with her family, she was famous for selling bubble tea in various night markets more than 15 years ago. That evening we also discovered that the other members, including myself, who are currently working in various fields except F&B have been meaning to venture into it for some time. Therefore it was time we made this F&B dream come true as everyone was enthusiastic.”

The Ipoh boy who majored in mechanical engineering explained, “We actually went to three countries for some training – Taiwan, China and Korea. Thus, our drinks are made with Korean charm with a local touch as almost everyone else in the market is doing it with either a Taiwanese or Chinese flair. For example, we came up with four types of Korean latte without coffee but a combination of fruits and milk. A unique one is the sweet potato latte which is different as coconut milk is added in.”

With trendy drinks made from all-natural ingredients as its speciality, Teaffany was officially launched in July at De Garden Mall with about 700 cups made on the first day.

Currently, there are five series of drinks on the menu with more exciting additions from time to time: brown sugar bubble, Korean style latte (strawberry, mango, dragon fruit and sweet potato), fruit tea (grapefruit, lemon and orange and rainbow with up to seven types of fruits), special (Day Dreaming, CMT and peach gum papaya tea) and ice cream milk (milk tea ice cream brown milk, cendol ice cream matcha milk, black sesame ice cream caramel milk and coconut ice cream chocolate milk). Plus there is the teapresso series (peach oolong, rose oolong and jasmine green tea) which is a technique to extract all possible essence from the leaf in less than two minutes.

A few must-try beverages are the CMT (a drink with distinct layers of coffee, milk and tea) and peach gum papaya tea which are the brainchild of Collin. One of my favourites is the Day Dreaming with its fresh whipped cream made on the spot – a time-consuming feat.

“We want to provide a cosy place for people to chill with nice beverages. We are so much more than just another bubble tea shop, as our cafe menu encompasses many trendy drinks with even more upcoming in the series. Trends are evolving so fast so customers are bound to get bored if one keeps doing the same thing for a long time. Hence, we need to change the menu every now and then,” Collin enthused.

Teaffany’s Chinese name, “Pou Cha” has a Cantonese character “Pou” which denotes “to hang out” followed by “Cha” which means tea.

“As all of us happen to favour the Tiffany (eponymous Jeweller) blue colour so its English name, ‘Teaffany’ was inspired by it and the shop’s interior design ran on this colour theme. Plus we have one yet-to-be-launched drink called tiffany blue lemon,” he added.

Running on the tagline, ‘Be Bold, Let’s Tea’, there is a multi-coloured mural of its logo, a lion, painted by Ipoh art teacher (Yippy Belle) at the outdoor seating area complete with fairy lights at night for an Instagram-worthy shot.

Teaffany Malaysia is located at Lot No. G-R-1, Ground Floor, De Garden Mall, 3 Persiaran Medan Ipoh, Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh. Open from 12pm to 12am daily, visit its Facebook page and Instagram account for more updates. Teaffany accepts bookings for private events with an approximate capacity of 80 people.

Nicole Loh, owner of Tea Bubble Ipoh, a handcrafted tea shop launched in December last year shared with Ipoh Echo, “Our signature is our handmade tapioca balls which are made in-store. The colourful, chewy pearls are made of tapioca flour and fruit juices which are all-natural ingredients without any preservatives. We receive customers from all ages like families and during peak day we have sold up to 800 to 1000 cups.” Originated from Taiwan, there are only five outlets of Tea Bubble in Malaysia to date.

It is located at Block D, G-3, Ipoh Soho 2 Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, 30000, Ipoh. Open from 12pm to 1am, swing by its Facebook page for more info.

Other international and local brands of trendy drinks which have popped up in Ipoh recently besides long-standing powerhouses such as Starbucks, Chatime and Tealive are Tapir Milk Tea, TeaAroi, Xing Fu Tang, JLD Dragon, Raion, The Story Juice Bar, Yumcha Tea Bar, KITEA Cafe, Teadayz, Beauty Tea, Macao Imperial Tea, Instea, The Alley, Fengcha, YiCha Tea, Daboba, In Cha, The Yunique Tea, Galaxy Tea Bar, Chatto, Royaltea, Hanaya, Tai Tea and 18C Tea among others.

One upcoming brand which has announced its arrival (at the time of publishing) is Tiger Sugar. Meanwhile, it is this scribe’s fervent wish to one day witness the opening of the following brands currently found everywhere but Malaysia: Boba Guys, Chun Shui Tang, Bopomofo Cafe, Moomin Pop Bubble Tea Bar, ATM Tea Bar, etc.

Health Aspect

Many food crazes such as those involving the durian (king of Malaysian fruits – just look at the number of roadside stalls), nasi lemak (national dish of rice cooked in coconut milk – remember the time when it was nasi lemak everything from burger, cake to gelato?), teh tarik (hot milk tea which is an all-time-favourite beverage) and now boba (bubble tea) have drawn possible health concerns from some. As with all yummy things in life, we all know that everything should be consumed in moderation.

“Here at Teaffany we make an effort to produce healthier drinks by reducing its sugar levels. In addition, we offer sweetness level options, non-boba varieties and non-dairy choices like fruit drinks as well as black soybean to replace milk,” Collin highlighted.

“We provide options for sugar levels (less, half and without) even for the brown sugar series which is all the rage now,” Nicole added.

Eco Switch

Perhaps one potential market to adopt the eco switch is the handcrafted drinks especially bubble tea which is all the rage now, as its packaging (cup, sealing film, lid and straw) is mostly plastic.

Nicole stated, “We at Tea Bubble Ipoh are now in the works of creating reusable tumblers that customers can wash at home and each time they bring it here they will get to enjoy discounts on their beverage. We have been selling metal straws too. Previously, we tried using glass bottles but unfortunately, it received negative feedback from customers as being too heavy for to-go. We are continuously doing research for better solutions to go green.”

“One of our plans is to bring in the edible rice straw (made of rice) which is very new in the market where so far in Malaysia only one factory in Penang is producing it. We do use recyclable bottles. Another idea is to start a reusable tumbler system but consumers need to have the mindset to go green and be supportive in order for it to be successful,” Collin pointed out.

Also spotted are the green initiatives taken by The Black Whale Ipoh branch in which single cup takeaway is carried in a recyclable cup holder made of cloth while double cup takeaway is packed in a reusable PVC cup holder.

Consumers

Ivana Qartika Binti Shamsuddin, who cites matcha flavoured drinks as her favourite, expressed, “I have always been a green tea enthusiast. I love the balance of bitterness and sweetness. Green tea also has health benefits. Anytime is boba time really when I’m with people who also enjoy them so we can share our drinks with one another. My friends and I love aesthetically cuter shops for memorable photos. Sometimes I drink boba all by myself when I feel like I want to get away from it all and it helps that boba shops have relaxing ambience. It also helps to beat the scorching heat.”

“Hopefully when I get older, I have the chance to book a personal boba stall for my event. I want a boba booth at my wedding!” the 23-year-old university student added.

Thanusha, 20, shared similar sentiments, “I love trying new things, which is why if there is a new bubble tea place that I have not tried I will definitely queue up for it despite the crowd. I would usually order a large signature milk tea with half sugar and no toppings. I love to drink bubble tea after meals as I consider it as dessert. I usually drink bubble tea with my family as well as my friends.”

Another Ipohite, 26-year-old Chris Teh opined, “I’d say I consume everything in moderation, just to satisfy my occasional cravings. I usually consume when there’s a special occasion, for instance, a friend’s birthday, colleague’s promotion or a special treat to myself. Being a Pokémon fan myself, I was really intrigued with boba resembling Pokéballs made from red rice, coconut and bamboo charcoal offered by Onezo Malaysia in May and June. Its nearest chain is at Subang Jaya. Unfortunately, I missed out on the chance to try it due to time constraints after starting a new job in Ipoh.”

Qistina Izfarina, 26, has been a fan of matcha green tea, hazelnut coffee and mocha frappuccino since high school. “I love the texture as the milk is different from what we usually use at home and the coffee is smooth. The best time to get one is when I hang out with my friends or when it is on discount such as buy one free one. Once I drank it when a friend celebrated my birthday there and that stays as a beautiful memory,” she recalled.

Ho Kang Ni, 27, usually goes for the signature of the respective shops since the boba trend started. “When there is so much hype about a franchise brand’s flagship product, I will try it. To me, a quality drink is very much about its taste and presentation,” the Ipoh girl who works in Petaling Jaya mentioned.

Naming the fragrant brown sugar bubble milk from The Alley as her top choice, 28-year-old Michelle has tried drinks from seven franchises in a year. “I waited an hour for a drink once. It is best enjoyed with friends and colleagues!” she elaborated.

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Tan Mei Kuan

Tan Mei Kuan graduated with first-class honours and book prize from University of Malaya majoring in languages and linguistics (English). She is proficient in both written and spoken English and Malay. She is also conversant in Mandarin and has knowledge of Japanese and Korean languages. Mei Kuan has been on the Dean’s List for three years running. Having written for the campus newspaper and residential college magazine, joining Ipoh Echo has helped utilise her writing and language skills. In her spare time she enjoys running (races).

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